Wednesday, 13 July 2016
No to life pension for senators
Written by the editorial board of the guardian newspaper
Nigerians must ensure that the obnoxious proposal by some senators, demanding immunity and life pension for presiding officers of the National Assembly after their tenure of office, does not see the light of day. This is because that proposal is fantastically selfish, its justification premised on faulty logic, even as it is a reckless demand. As samples of the release from the spokespersons of these ‘compassionate’ senators would show, one would think this proposal came from a casual rendezvous of senators. But that would be dead wrong.
The proposal, re-echoed a few days ago by the House Speaker Yakubu Dogara, was the outcome of a two-day retreat on Constitutional Review, tagged “Towards Ensuring Governance, Accountability in Nigerian Federalism,” and organised by the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Constitutional Review. It suggested that the President of the Senate, the Deputy President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives are those to enjoy life pension as well as immunity from criminal prosecution and all that.
Justifying the decision of the ad-hoc committee, Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu was quoted to have said: “This has nothing to do with an individual. It is about the institution. Let us not politicise it. Nobody elected the Chief Justice of Nigeria but he enjoys pension. But if we cheapen our own institution, so be it. Let us not make this a personal thing.” Senator Stella Oduah, in an unusual effrontery reportedly argued: “The executive enjoys it. Let us stand by our leaders. They should enjoy this benefit. They act on behalf of us. They are equal to the executive and the judiciary and should, therefore, enjoy the same benefit.”
Pray, how much of this warped logic will Nigerians stomach! Senators have conducted themselves in manners that question their integrity, and the ad-hoc committee members have not cautioned their colleagues about cheapening the institution. Persons of ignoble character and of rapacious appetite have found a safe haven in the National Assembly, and yet no one is talking about cheapening the institution! Is it the absence of life pension for presiding officers of the Senate that portrays a cheapening of the institution? Many years ago, Nigerians thought the Senate would be the reflective chamber of the National Assembly and a seminal platform for the growth of Nigeria’s wobbly democracy. But now it tends to be saturated by garrulous individuals with no modicum of the required personality excellence the hallowed chamber deserves.
If this is the senators’ idea of good governance, then all well-meaning citizens and others who hold Nigeria dear have a duty to call the senators to order. The machination of such perverted reasoning is an insult to Nigerians’ well-being; it is a deliberate mockery of the basic sense of justice.
Given the self-protective logic adorning the clamour for life pension and immunity, all of which portrays a dearth of sagacious elements in the National Assembly, this newspaper hereby reiterates its earlier proposal that Nigeria opts for a part-time legislature. The full time status of National Assembly members encourages the infiltration of the legislature with indolent persons, and such others who are not fit to lead. The man-hours spent, and the output of work done at the National Assembly are inconsistent with the perquisites they desire to covet.
On a good day, Nigerians are a perceptive people who tend to empathise with government in difficult situations. They are a long suffering people with an uncanny capacity for sacrifice and endurance. Under the guise of working towards a promising future, Nigerians have been made to experience belt-tightening measures to their own detriment. In contrast to the typical well-meaning Nigerians are politicians at the National Assembly and everywhere else, who think that every kobo accruing to the national coffers is their birth right. That they have failed to understand these perilous economic times, caused by the wanton pillaging of the treasury perpetrated by their fellow politicians, is an extremely wicked and unconscionable action.
Besides, asking for immunity is superfluous. The legislators are already protected from prosecution while carrying out parliamentary actions. That they are asking for another kind of immunity smacks of a spurious demand. If that is the case, what these senators are clamouring for is a protection from prosecution for criminal actions carried out as legislators. This is unacceptable.
Equally faulty is the proposal for life pension. In view of the provisions of the Pension Act, stipulating that compensation for service in the form of pension is drawn from contribution made by workers after serving a minimum of five years in government appointment, it is unnecessary for legislators to have life pension.
Given the outpouring of pecuniary demands from legislators in recent times, there is a growing impression that this current National Assembly, in spite of its acknowledged better output than the ones before it, is fast descending into an assembly of sinecurists and freeloading idlers who profit from Nigeria’s lucre-driven politics to the disadvantage of the polity. However, Nigerians are convinced that there are also men and women in the Senate who have a name to protect and who understand the enormous responsibility placed on them by the people. Some of these have spoken against this obnoxious proposal that would do nothing other than smear an already battered image of the National Assembly.
Nigerians should commend and encourage these lawmakers to forcefully express their moral conviction irrespective of self-serving agendas mooted by their colleagues.